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I didn't watch any of the early afternoon games yesterday, since I had other things to do.  It was my insignificant protest against the networks, who for some reason thought I'd rather watch Packers-Rams and Patriots-Jets instead of Jags-Steelers, Browns-Bills, and Cards-Saints.  Yes, I know, there are a lot of people who only watch their teams on TV, and the sort of people who don't care about the teams, but instead care about the playoff implications, are the sort of people who love football and will watch most anything they put on anyway.  So of course I had to do the opposite.  I got some writing done, that was good.  And I watched some Venture Bros. 

But seriously, how short-sighted is it to air the Packers and the Patriots merely because they've got the most fans in the area?  In the latter two games, you've got pretty decent odds that you'll be seeing the winner in the playoffs.  In the first, you might well be seeing the team that gets first shot at the Patriots.  Start building support for these teams now, so people know who they are and have something to root for in the first round of the playoffs! 

I guess I'm less angry at FOX, since they really didn't have any good NFC games going on.  New York-Washington got stolen by NBC, Dallas-Philly was in the later afternoon, Minnesota-Chicago was on Monday night, and Tampa Bay-Atlanta and Seattle-Carolina were expected to be as bland as Green Bay-St. Louis.  But when you have only one game with much at stake, you air that game.  Seems obvious to me, but what do I know?

All right, with that rant out of the way, it's time to raise my mug of hot chocolate and espresso to the people who made football great this weekend:

Here's to you, ye gods, for giving us some awesome football weather.  From the snow in Buffalo to the wind in New York to the wintry mix in Boston, and that's only the extremes.  This is why I like football so much better than baseball - it's great on a perfect day, it's just as good if not better on a rainy one.

Here's to you, Mario Williams.  3.5 sacks of Jay Cutler, 2.5 of which were on key third-down plays.  Cutler had a good game, but you got him when it counted and the Broncos couldn't score.

Here's to you, Texans' defensive coordinator Richard Smith.  Your guys shut down Denver's running game, forcing them to play the pass-heavy game they don't prefer.  Very well executed.

Here's to you, Shaun Hill.  Your first start of the season, and you complete 75% of your passes and get the team's fourth win.  You're a hero, at least for a week.

Here's to you, Frank Gore.  Welcome back - stick around this time.

Here's to you, Matt Moore.  You're an undrafted rookie, and you already have as many wins for the Panthers as a former #1 overall pick does.  Oh, and incidentally, you look eerily like a guy I was just in a show with.  He played a drag queen, and was really good at it... I'm just saying, there might be a career for you there if the NFL thing doesn't pan out.

Here's to you, DeAngelo Williams.  Nothing all day, then a 35-yard scamper for the put-away touchdown.  Clutch.

Here's to you, Jamal Lewis.  When I go through my predictions from the offseason to see how they panned out, I'm going to have a "special apologies to" section, and you'll be near the top of the list (along with Brett Favre and Randy Moss).

Here's to you, AP writer Tom Withers, for writing this line about the Browns game: "On a perfect day to build a snowman, the Cleveland Browns put one up on the scoreboard."  Not inspiringly brilliant or anything, but I got a good chuckle out of it.

Here's to you, everyone who touched the ball in that game, for somehow going a snow-blanketed game without any turnovers.  Way to take care of the rock.

Here's to you, Roydell Williams, for your 2-TD performance against the Chiefs.  This is a Titans box score if I've ever seen one.  QB under 200 yards, no RB or WR over 100, no outstanding numbers anywhere, but no huge mistakes and a win.

Here's to you, David Thornton.  8 tackles, 2 assists, and a pick.  Nice effort.

Here's to you, Dwayne Bowe, leading your team in receiving once again.  I'm rooting for you to break 1000 in your rookie season.  Just 115 to go!

Here's to you, Cleo Lemon.  You finally got one!  (With 315 yds passing to boot!)

Here's to you, Greg Camarillo.  You join Shaun Hill in the heroes for a week club.

Here's to you, Special Teams Player of the Week David Bowens.  Great punt block & return to make a game of it and give your team their only touchdown.

Here's to you, Offensive Player of the Week Drew Brees.  4 incompletions out of 30 passes, and it was just enough to stave off Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. 

Here's to you, Aaron Stecker.  You were forced into a starting role, and performed admirably.  4.3 YPC is just fine.

Here's to you, Fred Taylor, and believe me, you and Jamal Lewis are right on Brees' tail for OPotW.  How is it you're so good against Pittsburgh and no other RB is?  Salivating for that playoff matchup yet?

Here's to you, Willie Parker, and here's what I don't get.  You were averaging 7.1 YPC and you only touched the ball 14 times in bad weather when Roethlisberger was completing less than 50% of his 33 passes?  Did Mike Tomlin take coaching tips from Brad Childress?  Anyway, you did what you could.

Here's to you, Steven Jackson.  You join Frank Gore in the "Welcome back" club.

Here's to you, Atari Bigby.  Did you make my "Greatest names in the NFL" list?  No you didn't.  What an oversight.  But nice job on those two picks. 

Here's to you, Nick Barnett.  13 tackles!  And for good measure, 2 sacks.  You really do have a nose for the ball, don't you?

Here's to you, Mason Crosby and Koren Robinson.  It was a pretty evenly matched game in most respects except three: field goals, punts, and kickoff returns.  Green Bay only punted once and got 4 field goals, 3 of which were over 40 yards.  St. Louis had to punt 4 times, and only got one FG attempt.  Robinson, you had more return yards on 3 kickoffs than counterpart Derek Stanley had on 6.  I'm gonna have to give a toast here to Green Bay special teams coach Mike Stock as well.

Here's to you, Tampa Bay offensive line.  When three different guys carry for 9+ carries and 50+ yards, that's the line's doing.  So cheers, Donald Penn, Jeremy Trueblood, Arron Sears, Davin Joseph, and John Wade.

Here's to you, Ronde Barber, Jermaine Phillips, Tanard Jackson, and Brian Kelly.  4 guys on the Falcons caught a pass.  One pass.  Each.  That's all.  The Bucs caught half as many of Chris Redman's passes as Falcons did.

Here's to you, Michael Spurlock, for getting the Bucs' first ever kick return TD.  It was the 1,856th time a Buc returned a kickoff, and the first touchdown.  Incredible. 

Here's to you, Anthony Gonzalez.  You just keep stepping up.

Here's to you, T.J. Rushing.  Never would have thought the Colts would need a punt return for a 7-point win over the Raiders, but they did, and you gave it to them.

Here's to you, Lito Sheppard, Chris Gocong, and Quintin Mikell, for each picking off Tony Romo and holding the Cowboys to 6 points.

Here's to you, Brian Westbrook, for stopping at the 1 and not going for the TD.  You might be the sole reason I like the Eagles but hate the Giants and Cowboys.  I have to root for a team player like yourself.

Here's to you, LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles.  And Detroit, I hope no one's accusing San Diego of running up the score.  They kept rushing with their #3 back, what more could you ask?  It just so happens he was good for the team's second 100-yard performance of the day.  And if you throw it to the wrong team, they're going to try and catch it; it's what you're supposed to do.

You may think we're almost done, but the last game was a Redskins game, and the only full game I watched this week, so there's a lot to say.

Here's to you, Shawn Springs, Fred Smoot, LaRon Landry, and Reed Doughty.  On one play, Eli Manning floated a pass high to Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone, a pretty well-placed throw, especially given the windy conditions.  Smoot (I believe), 6 inches shorter than Plax, stretches his hand up as far as he can, and knocked it in the air.  Meanwhile, Landry came flying over and leveled Burress, giving him no chance at the tipped ball.  Perfectly played.  And they did this all night - I haven't seen such physical play from a secondary in a long time, and I don't think they ever even got an interference call (though Tom Coughlin wanted them - sorry, Tom, they were all legal). 

I can't quite toast you, Eli Manning, because you did not play a very good game.  I mean, you had a 52.1 rating and didn't even throw an interception.  But your game looked a lot worse than it actually was.  Brandon Jacobs dropped at least four no-brainer passes, and there were at least five other drops.  Add the physical play of the Redskins' corners and the wind conditions, and I don't think anyone would have done well, not even your brother.

Here's to you, Andre Carter, for your forced fumble and two sacks, both of which ended Giants' drives.  You and your fellow linemen also forced Eli into some pretty bad throws.

Here's to you, Clinton Portis.  You gave credit to the big passing plays and the big offensive line for your big rushing day, which was big of you.  Big big big.  But you squeezed through some tight spots, so give yourself some credit too.  You're an incredible runner, and as Madden pointed out, you're one heck of a blocker.

* All right, I have to break my fantasy football rule here, which means you all can too.  Hey, it's the playoffs. *

I killed my opponent this week, placing me in the championship in one of my fantasy leagues.  The performance of Clinton Portis and the Skins' defense last night gave my little brother hope that he and I will be squaring off for bragging rights.  (He's such a homer - he really reached for that Skins' D in the draft, when they went undrafted in most leagues.)  Anyway, I'll be in Virginia next weekend, watching the games with the whole family, and man, if the league championship is on the line between me and him, that'll be special.  So if you have no allegiances in the game tonight, root for the Bears to shut down Adrian Peterson.  And man, this guy my brother is up against has Peterson, Brady, and Moss.  That guy's a draft genius.  That's another reason I want my bro to win.

All right, so open season on fantasy football toasts.  But the other rules apply; no toasts about gambling, and no negativity or sarcasm.  This is one place each week where we can celebrate all the great stuff about the NFL without getting caught up in "negative energy" (I sound like such a hippie).

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